People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier invited to two broadcast debates

Decision drew immediate objections from the Conservatives and New Democrats

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier secured an invitation Monday to two official leaders’ debates in October.

The Leaders’ Debates Commission, formed by the federal government to organize the two debates, said Bernier’s party has a “legitimate” chance of electing members in more than one seat and he therefore qualifies to participate, a decision that drew immediate objections from the Conservatives and New Democrats.

Bernier has said that participating in the debates is crucial to getting his new party’s message in front of potentially receptive voters.

He had previously been denied the chance to debate because the commission found his party did not meet at least two of three criteria for participation:

— having at least one MP elected as a member of that party;

— running candidates in at least 90 per cent of Canada’s 338 ridings; and/or

— having won at least four per cent of the popular vote in the last election or having a legitimate chance at electing candidates

Bernier is the party’s lone MP but he was elected as a Conservative, forming the People’s Party after losing the leadership to Andrew Scheer and ultimately concluding that there’s little difference between the Tories and the Liberals.

The People’s Party is running candidates in more than 90 per cent of Canada’s ridings. But the debates commission initially ruled that the party didn’t stand a legitimate shot at electing more than one candidate and told Bernier he was out.

After giving the party more time to provide further evidence and to bring the decision closer to the date of the actual election, debates commissioner and former governor general David Johnston said the party does in fact have a “reasonable chance” at winning multiple seats.

“That was the right decision,” Bernier said in a video posted to Twitter soon after the news.

READ MORE: Maxime Bernier tells party faithful he will make it into the leaders’ debates

Michel Cormier, executive director for the debates commission, expressed confidence in the decision-making process.

“Under the leadership of Mr. Johnston, it’s been a very reasoned and detailed and deliberate process to make sure we come to the right decision. Because it’s a decision of importance,” Cormier said in an interview.

Johnston noted in a statement made public Monday the decision-making process for determining inclusion was “complex” and required interpretation of what was meant by “legitimate chance,” and how to consider multiple factors — some of which were quantifiable and some which were not.

Johnston also said it was difficult to predict the chance of winning in this early stage, but based on past trends, he concluded “it is possible that the PPC’s support may change positively over the course of the upcoming campaign.”

On the question of more recent polling data, the debates commission worked with the research firm EKOS to survey four ridings the PPC flagged as having prominent candidates with a chance of victory.

“We decided not to poll people’s general voting intentions of other parties” so the commission could isolate the level of potential support for the People’s Party, Cormier said.

“We’re not predicting victory here, we’re just trying to measure whether they have a reasonable chance,” he said.

The resulting polling found substantial minorities of people in those four ridings who said it was either “possible, likely, or certain” they would vote for the PPC candidate.

The level of potential support broke down to 34.1 per cent of respondents in Nipissing-Timiskaming, 29.9 per cent in Etobicoke North and 25.9 per cent in Pickering-Uxbridge, all in Ontario, and 24.5 per cent in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingly, in Manitoba.

The commission also asked polling firm Nanos Research for an opinion on what level of support was needed to win a riding. Based on past electoral results, Nanos responded that parties had a chance of winning a seat if they garnered more than 25-per-cent support.

“Upon review of this opinion, I conclude that where more than one of four voters in a riding considers voting for a party, that party has a reasonable chance to elect its candidate,” Johnston said.

The debates commissioner also took into account Bernier’s personal popularity in his own riding of Beauce, Que., as well as a submission from the Conservatives that no party has won a seat with national support under three per cent since 1949.

The Conservatives accused Johnston of bias against them. Some Tories have accused EKOS pollster Frank Graves of being anti-Conservative as well, which he’s denied.

“It’s no big surprise that Justin Trudeau’s hand-picked debate panel used a Liberal-friendly pollster who attacks Andrew Scheer to ultimately justify Mr. Bernier’s attendance at the debate,” press secretary Daniel Schow said by email. “Trudeau has been stacking the deck for months, using the power of his office to tilt the playing field in his favour for this election.”

The New Democrats objected to Bernier’s inclusion for a different reason.

“The rise of extremism, hate speech and white supremacy is a real threat to our country. Leaders have a responsibility to not feed this problem, but this is exactly what Maxime Bernier is doing,” the NDP said in a statement.

“We think this was the wrong decision. The decision has been made independently, so there is nothing else that we can do, but we hope other leaders will join us in denouncing any hate speech from Maxime Bernier.”

READ MORE: Maxime Bernier blames billboard woes on ‘totalitarian leftist mob’

The Liberals also offered a statement: “Our Liberal team appointed former governor general, the Right Honourable David Johnston, to lead the new debate commission so decisions on participation for the two official debates would be made independently. We look forward to continuing to share our positive, forward-looking and inclusive vision with Canadians.”

Bernier will join the leaders of the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Greens in two debates: one in English on Oct. 7 and a French-language debate Oct. 10.

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich Subway restaurant robbed at knifepoint

Police ask witnesses to come forward

RCMP to stop providing security for Prince Harry and Meghan

Public safety minister says RCMP has been helping UK police intermittently since November

First arrests made at BC Legislature after demonstrators spray chalk on property

Legislature security arrested two people, allegedly for mischief

Rummage sale returns to Oak Bay’s Monterey for leap year Saturday

Early dropoffs have rummage sale volunteers busy sorting

Island Food Caring launches program to tackle food insecurities

Victoria Foundation and five local grocers team to launch campaign on Feb. 27

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

What’s happening: Coronavirus forges on, as world hunts solutions

Japan closes all elementary, middle and high schools until spring holidays in late March

RCMP, hereditary chiefs reach deal to end police patrols of Wet’suwet’en lands

Withdrawal opens door for talks today between hereditary chiefs, province and federal gov

Should you shave your beard to stop COVID-19? The U.S. CDC has a guide

Facial hair could be a big no-no if COVID-19 reaches pandemic status

Canada’s 13th coronavirus case confirmed as husband of 12th patient

More than 81,000 cases of COVID-19 have occurred since the virus emerged in China

Shuswap boy wins hockey stick from NHL hero with rock, paper, scissors

Chase’s Payton Koch’s exchange with Minnesota Wild’s Kevin Fiala caught on camera

Surrey will replace its RCMP force with municipal police, province confirms

City of Surrey has been authorized to set up its own city police force

Most Read